Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bogus Emotion

Finally got around to watching The Queen last night, and while I enjoyed the craft of it very much, I'll be damned if I could tell who the villains were supposed to be. I get that we're supposed to be put off by QE2's stiff upper lip, her refusal to participate in the ritualized emoting of the crowd.

It brought all that back, when I thought I'd forgotten about it, the baffling displays of the most self-serving, mawkish caricatures, heaps of placards and sobbing adults planted outside the gates, waiting for some sort of sign they could find "acceptable". I couldn't stand those fucking people then, and I understand them even less now.

All I could think about as the movie wound down was Hitchens' wonderful essay written one year AD (After Di), lampooning the feeling-mining industry populated largely by buffoons taking advantage of cretins.

Twelve months on, and the whole diaphanous veil has melted away. In Britain, increasingly irritable and frayed groups of fans debate which memorial "she" would "really have wanted." Let's see now: There's the Graceland theme-park that has already ruined the bucolic village of Althorp, which her thuggish brother happens to own. Since Lord Spencer publicly refused to have her to stay on the estate after her divorce, that perhaps won't quite do -- even if she is buried there.


This inflexible law is beginning to tell. As the efforts to recapture the lost rapture become tacky and second-rate, so they raise the inescapable question: What was that all about in the first place?


The divine one's will, when published a little later, reserved not one penny for charity and redistributed a huge fortune among the richest families in the country. The queen, famed for her public composure, did not weep before the cameras until the moment when her Royal Yacht was towed away to the scrapyard a few months after that. Mohammed Fayed has been exposed yet again as a vulgar influence-peddler and distributor of thick envelopes. Lord Spencer's divorce proceedings have revealed him to be the centerpiece of one of the nastiest bunches of upper-class bastard-dom since the disappearance of Lord Lucan.

I never knew what it was all about in the first place. I still don't, probably never will. As near as I can tell -- and The Queen only affirms this suspicion, though it doesn't sufficiently explore it -- the ludicrous spate of Diolatry was a necessary indulgence of the British press, who desperately needed to gin up some sort of contrived event to deflect from the cold hard truth that they literally hounded this woman to death. (Along with the people who keep them in business by purchasing their starfucking nonsense.) But at street level, it seemed less like a genuine need to grieve than the need to be seen grieving, a rather plastic affectation of grief, of allowing tabloid press and mob mentality to ventriloquize basic impulses to a completely unrealistic degree.

The Windsor family's reactions in the aftermath were deemed culturally unacceptable, given their (and Diana's, for that matter) role as a rather expensive appendage, a vestigial artifact of a re-imagined time best forgotten. The populace's discontent with that reaction may have betrayed a more fundamental irritation with the diminished utility of having a royal family in the first place, whether they want to admit it or not. But if they need that much fluff and ceremony to bookend their lives, be it in the guise of ostentatiously marrying and burying their emotional avatar, or in supporting a particular family in outlandish splendor, then it's probably a moot question to begin with.

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